Mon. April 22, 2019: Make The World a Better Place — Community #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, April 22, 2019
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde

This week, we talk about making the world a better place by building community and participating in your community.

What, exactly, does “building community” mean?

Different things to different people. To some, it means reaching out to those who don’t like to participate, and to encourage them so to do. That’s great for extroverts, but as an introvert who is forced into extroversion far too often and gets resentful, I build it in different ways. Ways that don’t force me to pretend to be something I’m not.

I consider what I’m interested in, and where my skills might be an asset. Then, I see which organizations could use those skills. I do my research, I attend open houses or events to see if we’d be a good fit. If what I do matches what they need, we discuss ways for me to volunteer.

One of my biggest mistakes when I moved here was downplaying some of my skills and doing tasks with which I was uncomfortable under the adage of “being a good sport.” Around here, too many people are hostile to people with New York skills, citing, “This isn’t New York.” No, it’s not. The only place that’s New York is actually New York. But some of the skills that are successful there can be successful anywhere, and dismissing skills because they worked in New York is a stupid reason not to use them.

Having learned the hard way, I’m done with that.

I’ve also learned to put my foot down when the organization demands something I don’t do, with the claim, “well that’s what we need” — ESPECIALLY when I told them, early on, what tasks I was uncomfortable with and would not do. Too many organizations just want bodies to deploy and aren’t honest about the work that needs doing. It’s one thing if there’s a crunch time to say, “We could really use an extra pair of hands for this.” Hey, no problem, glad to help. It’s quite another to send multiple emails every week demanding I do things I said I wouldn’t do.

It means I’ll leave the organization. Especially as a volunteer, I am not going to spend my rare time off, unpaid, doing things that make me miserable. It makes MY world a worse place, and it doesn’t help further the organization’s mission.

In volunteering, honesty on both sides and firm boundaries are vital for the volunteer-organization relationship to work. The more specific and honest the initial conversation, the better the overall relationship, and the better everyone works for the betterment of all.

Another way to make the world a better place in your community is to look around and see what needs to be done. Does an elderly neighbor need help with yard work or grocery shopping or someone to help walk the dog? Is a neighbor sick and could use a few meals they can just heat up? Is a fundraiser looking for someone to staff a table or write invitations or do something you enjoy doing?

The local library is an information center. They often have a community board, and their website carries information on programs, talks, community events.

If you have an area of expertise, ask your local library if they’d like you to give a talk on it. Partner with them. Attend other events they host. Funding is cut if people don’t attend. When I worked for a library, those who couldn’t be bothered to attend the free programs were always the ones who moaned that there weren’t enough programs offered. If you want events to exist, you have to make the effort to attend them when they do, or they will cease. If there’s no reciprocity, they stop.

Attend local theatre productions and art openings and wine tastings, if you’re interested in any of that. These programs have no reason to exist if people don’t attend. We’re all tired after a long day at work, but if you make an effort once or twice a week, it improves your community.

The Chamber of Commerce is another organization that makes the community a better place. Attend an open house. Get to know other businesses. See if it makes sense to become a member. As a freelancer, in most places I’ve lived, the Chamber of Commerce is one of the best resources for networking, community building, business building, and laughter around.

When you go to these events, smile. Introduce yourself. Talk to people. Make the effort, even if you’re shy. Look around for the person who is quiet and doesn’t know anyone else, either, and say hello. Be the inclusion you want. Don’t wait for other people to do it.

Create what you’re looking for, instead of expecting others to do it. When you create what you want and need and love, you attract those seeking the same. That’s how you find your tribe.

Mon. Feb. 12, 2018: #Upbeat Authors — Love

The topic of today’s Upbeat Authors post, ahead of Valentine’s Day, is love.

While plenty of people bemoan the commercialization of the holiday, there’s more to it to that IF YOU CHOOSE TO DO IT.

I remember, when I was working my way up in theatre, from church basement shows to Broadway, what a big deal Valentine’s Day became. If you were dating someone, there were all these expectations, on both sides. It was a day to prove and to define the relationship. It was also a day of fear – what if the acknowledgement was out of balance with the recipient’s feelings? Those not in a relationship were either depressed or desperate (plenty of one-night stands on Valentine’s Day).

So a bunch of us who didn’t want to be bound or defined by expectations decided to do something different.

We decided that one should celebrate one’s loving relationship by the strength of daily actions. And that Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating the relationships that don’t often get celebrated, such as friendships, strong relationships with co-workers, etc. We would give each other funny little gifts or candy, and go out as a big group to celebrate EACH OTHER. It wasn’t focused on couples, although couples were included; it was about all of us being glad we were in each other’s lives, and taking note of it to celebrate, to make sure we weren’t taking each other for granted.

Were there still some of the relationship pressures? Of course.

But love takes many forms – romantic love, family love, strong and loyal friendships, even some work relationships that aren’t quite friendship, but are deeper and more complicated than “just business.” All of those deserve celebration.

We also worked for inclusion – we wanted to make sure no one felt alone. Working in theatre, that tends to happen anyway. We are a tight group and look after our own, even if we don’t always get along every moment of every day. Most of us were the outsiders growing up, or in the communities into which we were born; so the artistic community we CHOOSE does not shun people for being artistic, intelligent, or different. We BUILD our families.

That’s the big difference between living someplace like New York or San Francisco or Chicago of wherever, and living in a more isolated community (that the right mistakenly calls “real America.” Cities are just as “real” as any other community). In cities, people choose their families and their communities. Literature, especially some of the genre-focused category literature, claims that cities are impersonal and cruel. My experience has been quite the opposite. Rural communities are often stuck with those too afraid to leave; cities are built by those who choose to be there. Living in cities, we fantasize about moving out to a smaller community for a “quiet” life. The reality rarely measures up to the fantasy. It’s hard to find that balance. It’s hard to move from a place where you choose your tribe to a place that defined the tribe by place and birth years before you got there and continues to do things “the way they’ve always been done” rather than balancing a respect for tradition with the need for evolution.

So, this coming Valentine’s Day, take a minute to let the people in your life know they matter. And offer a hand of friendship or at least understanding to someone who needs it. The positive results will surprise you.

Published in: on February 12, 2018 at 6:32 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Fri. Aug. 7, 2015: Full Conference Mode

Friday, August 07, 2015
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

It smells like autumn in the mornings now. It warms up to summer during the day, but you can really feel the wheel of the year turning in the early mornings. About 3 AM – since that’s the time I’ve been waking up lately! 😉

Yesterday was busy – worked on conference stuff, casino night stuff, Mermaid Ball stuff, wine tasting evening stuff, photography contest stuff, cataloging stuff.

Left early to get down to the Conference Center and get my books into the bookstore before the 6 PM deadline. Even though I got there a little after 4:30, it was already closed and locked. So, I got my hands on the key (no, I did NOT pick the lock, that would have been rude, hush, you!) and left them with the paperwork.

Went to the cocktail reception, saw some old friends, made some new ones, introduced people to each other, welcomed newcomers to the conference, tried to get people chatting to each other and integrated. In other words, taking my job seriously as a Board member. Faculty Introductions went fine, we then repaired to the bar. To my regular table, where, when people came in looking lost and unsure, we waved them over, “Pull up a chair! Come join us!”

Because inclusion, along with inspiration, is what this conference is all about.

My friend and fellow (wonderful) author Arlene Kay made a comment that was 10% joke, 90% concern that triggered an epiphany about my unhappiness with both my writing quality and my writing productivity over the past few months.

I’ve unfortunately moved from steady, daily productive work (not that every day’s quality is good, but at least there’s something to work on) to more binge writing because of the extra hours I’m putting in between all the events that are booked for August. So I get frustrated because I’m writing less on some of the frantic days and frantic and pushing too hard to binge write on days I set aside for writing. It’s making things choppy instead of letting it flow. Even when something is one fire and I write a lot in a given day, I’m still happier and it’s better quality when I do a lower word count (1 to 2K/day), but a steady one.

Knowing I have to make changes this coming autumn on many fronts, that was an important realization. Thank you, Arlene! I can always count on her to cut through the crap!

In full conference mode for the next three days – tonight is our first keynote speaker, and then there are readings. And then, of course, the bar. Tomorrow, I’m working the desk in the morning, sitting in on one friend’s class in the afternoon, doing whatever needs to be done in the later afternoon, sitting in on a new friend’s class. The banquet is tomorrow night, but I have another commitment on another front in the evening, but will probably head back to the conference later. Sunday, I’m working the desk, sitting in on a class, and then helping load everything out.

In and around all that will be writing for said classes on which I’m sitting in, talking to people, making sure everyone feels happy and included and inspired, and listening. A lot, a lot, of LISTENING.

Have a great weekend!

Devon